Take a walk down the aquarium aisles of any pet store and you will see that the choices for filtration have never been more numerous, or more bewildering.
It is critical for pet retailers to both offer a wide variety of filters and pumps and to be able to help their customers choose the option that will work best for their particular needs.
What are aquarists looking for when it comes to these devices?
Scott Cross, an employee at Tropiquarium aquatic pet specialty store in Ocean, N.J., says that most customers purchase filters that are simple and inexpensive.
“It’s about price and simplicity,” he said.
Availability is also a concern. Aquarium hobbyists want to make sure that the filter media and other necessary parts are available.
Sean Raines, director of marketing innovation at United Pet Group, agrees with Cross but adds, “[Hobbyists] want to know that what they are buying is reliable, quiet and powerful.”
Given these concerns, it is no surprise that “hang-on-the-back” filters, more properly called external power filters, are the best-selling type of filters. These filters are very simple to set up and run. The filter media is an easily replaceable cartridge that slides into the filter. External power filters are relatively inexpensive and fairly durable. They can also last for quite some time before they need replacement.
Canister filters are another popular filtration method. Cross likes to steer customers toward these filters because they are “more efficient and have the best quality.” This can be a hard sell because many customers perceive canister filters as too confusing.
However, Raines said, “Canister filtration has made some serious strides toward becoming easier to use.”
Another factor that can make some customers shy away from canister filters is the price. They are more expensive than external power filters.
Canister filters are usually purchased by more experienced hobbyists who own large, and often multiple, tanks. These hobbyists appreciate the ability to customize the filter media, allowing them to select the materials best suited to the fish they keep or the conditions they are trying to create.
According to Raines, this type of filtration is the “most customizable option,” and is ideal for keepers “who want more control over their aquatic environment.”
Another plus for canister filters is that they are easy to hide from view. Because they sit below the tank, you can conceal the filter within the tank stand. This helps preserve the aesthetics of the aquarium.
Chemipure, by Boyd Enterprises, is a simple-to-use filter media suitable for all types of freshwater and saltwater environments. Chemipure is a nylon filter bag filled with a high grade blend of activated carbons and ion exchange resins.
Since it comes in a filter bag, it can be used in power filters, canister filters, box filters and sumps. The activated carbons filter excess waste nutrients dissolved in aquarium water, which prevents the unwanted bacteria build up that would normally occur if these nutrients were left in the water.
Ion exchange resins help remove nitrogen build up which is harmful to fish. This combination makes Chemipure a popular choice for keeping aquarium water clear. It keeps pH stable, removes dissolved organic waste, filters copper and other harmful metals, odors and phenols, and promotes proper ion balance.
Chemipure Elite adds ferric oxide to the original Chemipure formula to remove phosphates and silicates, the major causes of algae blooms in aquariums.
The Perfect Match
When selling filters to customers, it’s important to match the right filter to the customer’s tank. Failing to do this will not only create a dissatisfied customer, but could also make a new fish keeper turn away from the hobby completely in frustration with cloudy tanks and dead fish.
“Tank size and the customer’s budget are the most important things,” Cross said.
Raines stresses the importance of listening to the customer.
“Always talk to your customer and understand their needs,” he said. “How much time do they dedicate to the maintenance of their aquarium? How large is their aquarium? What type of aquarium and fish?All of these questions will help you paint a picture and better understand their needs. Then you can match up their needs with best option.”
Cross sees a big difference between saltwater and freshwater hobbyists.
“Saltwater customers mostly build their own pumps and filters,” Cross said. “We sell pumping kits and premade pumps to help them build what they want.”
The freshwater hobbyists are much more likely to buy off-the-shelf products.
Water pumps are often optional pieces of equipment for aquaria. This does depend on the type of aquarium and the fish living within. A pump may be needed in an aquarium to help circulate the water, power the filter, or both.
Two types of pumps can be used to power a filter: submersible (sometimes called internal) and in-line. Submersible pumps—as the name suggests—is completely submerged, usually inside a sump. In-line pumps are completely external to the aquarium. Submersible pumps are cooled by the water flow, so they add heat to the aquarium, which may be a problem for the fish. In-line pumps do not have this issue.
Additionally, they are more powerful than submersible pumps, but they are much louder too.
Pumps are commonly used in saltwater aquaria to circulate the water through the filter, sump, refugium and possibly additional devices (such as an ultraviolet sterilizer or protein skimmer). These may also be used in some freshwater setups, although this is less common.
Powerheads, a type of submersible pump, are often used to power undergravel filters and to create a current in the water. These are among the least expensive options for pumps.
Reef aquaria require pumps to provide corals and other invertebrates with the high level circulation they need. Many reef hobbyists use wavemakers or oscillating powerheads to create turbulent water circulation, matching the natural conditions of their animals.
As with filtration, the size of the tank is a key factor in determining the size and type of pump a customer needs, or if they need a pump at all. In small to medium aquaria, the filter may provide enough water circulation without the use of an additional pump.
In larger aquaria, a pump may be needed to provide additional circulation. Larger aquaria require the use of more powerful pumps. A stronger pump is also needed if aquarium inhabitants require a strong current or turbulence.
Raines provides what may be the best advice for the pet retailer: Carry a wide variety of filtration to address all of your customers’ needs.